Digital preservation has been an ongoing activity in the Libraries for over twenty years (see History of Digital Preservation at Indiana University for more detail). Although digital preservation efforts were largely project-based in early phases of the Digital Library Program, the Libraries moved to a more service-based development model around 2005 in order to manage its repository infrastructure more strategically. The reasons for this were twofold: first, a cohesive repository infrastructure centralized management and allowed digital curation actions to be carried out across the board; second, developments within the broader communities supporting the technologies utilized at the IU Libraries have been working on shared solutions, so utilizing a centralized infrastructure allows for easier local adoption. While repository services have been unified, priorities for digital preservation have not been defined at the institutional level and the responsibility falls primarily on individual collection owners. Additionally, new challenges such as born digital content and new file formats necessitate a higher degree of flexibility within the IUL repository infrastructure.
Indiana University’s audiovisual preservation activities, and specifically the recent University-level support for mass-scale digitization of A/V content, known as the Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative (MDPI), has been a major driver of growth and development of the IUL digital preservation infrastructure. MDPI led directly to the creation of new staff positions and the development and optimization of repository solutions like HydraDAM2 and Avalon. The creation of 6.5PB of data over only a few years, however, has revealed some of the gaps in the Libraries’ digital preservation infrastructure. For example, while the back-end storage for IUL content is robust and mirrored in two cities in Indiana, IUL content should also be backed up in a storage location outside of IU systems as a security measure.
In the past twenty years, IUL has engaged in groundbreaking digital initiatives, had the advantage of a robust university-level information technology infrastructure, and competed successfully for external funding. Two recent actions taken by the Libraries - the hiring of a Digital Preservation Librarian and the formation of the Digital Preservation Policy Framework Task Force - signal the Libraries' readiness for the additional development needed to achieve its goals, including sustainable funding and dedicated staff for digital preservation.
Four strategic priorities for sustainable digital preservation at Indiana University Libraries are outlined in the following pages. These provide a framework with which IUL can continue to grow its digital collections and support work being done by researchers and local affiliates. Along with the strategic priorities, a list of strategic goals has been defined in order to provide achievable metrics to ensure success (see Strategic Goals section for more information). These have specific measures for 2016 and 2017, which include:
- Working towards certification as a trustworthy digital repository (TDR)
- Developing centralized digital stewardship workflows to better support implementation within different units
- Providing training for non-preservation staff to foster better understanding of preservation needs, and providing a foundation for working collaboratively across the institution
- Establishing centralized support for digital stewardship activities
- Developing staff whose work directly supports digital preservation priorities
- Establishing connections across the IU Bloomington campus and among the various Indiana University campuses
Strategic Priorities for Digital Preservation
In developing this strategic vision, the DPPTF sought input from Libraries’ staff in order to build a list of priorities from the ground up. The Digital Collections and Preservation Survey was disseminated to all IUB Libraries staff in May 2016 (see Appendix I for more details on the results as they relate to this document).
The following priorities emerged from the survey responses as the most critical to ensure the deliberate establishment of digital stewardship practices for the long-term management and preservation of content at Indiana University. Taking these steps will prepare the Libraries to achieve its mission of preservation and stewardship of the historic and scholarly record into the distant future.
The survey was organized into three sections:
- Section 1 asked the respondent’s opinion of the current state of digital preservation infrastructure at IUL
- Section 2 asked about perceived needs in digital preservation efforts, and
- Section 3 was completed only by those managing digital content, and addressed the specific preservation needs of the respondent’s collection/s.
Many of the questions in section 2 were open-ended to allow staff to provide as full and unique answers as possible. The four strategic priorities outlined below came directly from the DPPFTF’s review of staff responses.
I. Establish a Libraries-wide Digital Preservation Policy
The creation of a digital preservation policy for the Indiana University Libraries emerged as a top priority for archivists, librarians, curators, and technologists who responded to the Digital Collections and Preservation Survey. Policies, staff, and procedures, as governed by this digital preservation strategy, go hand-in-hand. The digital preservation policy identifies the content to be preserved, the main actors involved in digital preservation activities, and provides a procedural framework; the strategy, in turn, provides guidance on how to implement the policy.
A digital preservation policy should be accessible and highly visible, and as such, serves as the initial point of reference for library staff and partners as they begin to understand the various and
complex layers involved with digital preservation. By establishing a clear policy, IUL would not only be communicating its stance on digital preservation, but also creating a cohesive approach to digital
preservation. Beyond local needs, the policy should address related digital preservation systems and their role in the IUL infrastructure: from shared repositories and community-driven repositories like HathiTrust and the Digital Public Library of America to publisher-driven repositories like Portico and LOCKSS. Systems in place for dark archiving like APTrust and DPN also need to be considered. New content such as web and social media archives also require a codified approach.
Identifying the need for a digital preservation policy is only the first step. The policy to be developed will need to carve boundaries while also maintaining permeable areas and approaches to
digital preservation in line with the Libraries’ mission “to support and strengthen teaching, learning, and research by providing the collections, services, and environments that lead to intellectual discovery” (libraries.indiana.edu/about-iu-libraries). There are many outstanding issues to resolve especially around prioritization of content for digital preservation, which should be mediated by this strategy document. Should this policy cover content not owned by the IU Libraries but hosted in IU Libraries repository services? What about content not in IUL or Enterprise Scholarly Systems (ESS) digital object repositories? How do existing collection development policies aid in the identification and prioritization of content? Do new collection development policies need to be established? While there are many more questions to work through, IUL is now well situated to answer these questions and establish a Libraries-wide policy that complements and reinforces the strategies for digital preservation described herein.
II. Consolidate Roles and Resources
In addition to the need for guiding policies, the 2016 survey showed that more collaboration among Libraries’ personnel and unification of resources are also top priorities. Because preservation has become an essential concern across different units that manage digital materials, survey respondents’ long-form answers stressed the need for collaborative planning, compatible workflows, and coordinated training led by a centralized unit. In short, the Libraries should strive to overcome “siloed systems and workflows,” as one respondent stated. Examples of potential areas for consolidation are similar preservation workflows occurring in different special collections; digitization workflows in the Preservation Department, Technical Services, and Library Technologies; and the management of specialized hardware in different special collections.
Although some degree of siloization may be inevitable in large institutions, steps can be taken to lessen the impact of crossover. For example, single workflows could be developed for working with specific types of materials at a high level and then tailored to individual collections by departmental staff. Continuing to create and support working groups that bridge departmental boundaries also helps to share knowledge across the institution. The survey responses make plain that the development of an articulated preservation policy for the Libraries should include a collaborative implementation plan that brings together all those involved in digital collections and scholarship to achieve a common goal.
Just as in the establishment of an institution-wide digital preservation policy, this strategic priority is complex in the types of issues that it brings up. Providing a clearer definition of ownership of digital preservation tasks and tools at a high level would allow staff to better understand their role. The challenge of creating the most strategic and effective work groups to foster relationships outside of departments is also something that will need to be addressed in order to achieve this strategic priority, as various special collections and other content owners need avenues for developing relationships but are also faced with limited time and staff. If the consolidation of roles and responsibilities is undertaken mindfully, however, it will free up both resources and staff time. The first step in undertaking this strategic priority should be a review of all of the roles and responsibilities of key staff related to digital preservation. These staff should engage in a group interview process to allow them to explain how their jobs would benefit from more collaboration or consolidation of resources. In addition, stock should be taken of specialized hardware devoted to digital preservation and tracked on the IUL wiki for staff to check prior to new purchases. The creation of cross-polinator roles would also aid in consolidation by building bridges between departments.
III. Strategic Staffing
In addition to the need for consolidation of roles and resources, dedicated staffing within the Libraries was also identified by survey respondents as an area of importance in developing a strategy for digital preservation. The current practice of assigning this type of work to student positions or interns was viewed as a barrier to the development of a consistent and stable operation, and this deficit of dedicated staff possessing the requisite knowledge and technical expertise was cited as a distinct challenge within the Libraries’ current digital preservation infrastructure. Specifically, expertise in the areas of e-records management, web archiving, digital content management and metadata were identified as crucial to the development of a robust and cohesive digital preservation operation, and necessary to ensure workflows can be implemented across campus.
While the need for strategic staffing is clear, there are obvious barriers to the development of targeted positions that would support digital preservation activities within IUL. Establishing a clear need for new positions and defining their location within the organization is the first barrier. This is especially key to ensure that staff flourish within the larger IUL organization. There is also a relative lack of training in the area of digital curation in terms of library science graduate programs, though more and more opportunities are arising, especially in archival programs. Hiring staff with long-term expertise in digital preservation is problematic because of the nascent state of education, so IUL must be strategic in locating, hiring, and cultivating staff for long-term success.